Town command the stage despite sick star

Fleetwood Town v Mansfield Town. 300 league appearance for Nathan Pond.
Fleetwood Town v Mansfield Town. 300 league appearance for Nathan Pond.

Micky Mellon hailed a footballing masterclass from his Fleetwood Town side marched nine points clear at the top of the Conference, writes ROB STOCKS.

Second-half goals from Shaun Beeley and Jamie Vardy, were enough to dispatch playoff-chasing Mansfield, who had won seven of their previous eight fixtures.

The victory, coupled with Wrexham’s shock defeat at home to Forest Green Rovers, means it is advantage Fleetwood once more in the race for the Conference crown and automatic promotion to The Football League.

After Town stretched their unbeaten league run to 25 matches, Mellon said: “I’m delighted with the performance. It was an absolute masterclass.

“We started a little shaky but found our way after 15 minutes and from there I thought we were in total control.

“We knew it was going to be tough and that they were going to make it hard for us.

“When games are like that you need that little bit of magic, but right through the whole team I thought it was a fantastic performance.

“We kept grinding away and playing our football, and we were probably in control for three quarters of the game.”

With top scorer Jamie Vardy starting on the bench due to illness, an alternative deadlock-breaker came in the surprising form of full-back Shaun Beeley.

The Fleetwood boss added: “I’ve got some pacy players and they are very, very fit.

“I give them licence to get forward as much as they want, and I try to organise them so that when they do get forward we are sorted out behind the ball.

“They know they can go forward with confidence, and I was delighted to see Shaun get his goal because he’s terrific player and a fantastic lad.”

Vardy did come off the bench to score in the second half but Micky Mellon is keen not to pile too much pressure onto his ailing talisman.

He said: “Vardy is ill. He’s done nothing for probably two weeks.

“I’m not the kind of manager who will try to milk the last bit of energy out of any of my players.

“I trust all my squad, and I trusted Peter Till and Gareth Seddon to come in and do a job.

“I knew that with half an hour to go I was going to bring Vardy on and get what we had out of him, and fortunately he got that crucial second goal.”

Despite the nine-point lead, Mellon isn’t getting carried away with promotion dreams.

He said: “Our focus is on Bath (next Saturday) and nothing else.

“We don’t want to take our eye off the ball and drop points because of it. It’s all about the next game.”

n TOWN chairman Andy Pilley conducted an on-field presentation to mark Nathan Pond’s 300th game for the club – but another milestone is uppermost in the mind of Town’s longest-serving player.

The 27-year-old is targeting a fifth promotion with Town, and one which would mean a club still in the North West Counties League when he made his debut in 2003 had risen to the ranks of the Football League.

Pond said: “My memories of that first game are very vague, though I think we won 4-0, but I’ve got many great memories and hopefully there are many more to come. “A fifth promotion would be magnificent and the most important for the club.”

Most of those 300 games have been in midfield but Pond has established himself as captain Steve McNulty’s central defensive partner this season.

He added: “I’d rather be on the right side of defence to the left, but as long as I’m on the field I don’t mind where I play.”

He is anxious to avoid a repeat of last season, when an ankle injury prevented him playing in the play-offs, but he added: “I had to stay mentally strong to get over that, but I battled my way back and I think I’ve played well this season to hold a place down.”

And if that dream fifth promotion is achieved, Pond has no doubt about his ability to step up yet another level.

“I can play League football. Each time we go up I’m asked that question but playing against better opponents brings more out of me.”